The black caiman is the largest member of the alligator family and is found primarily in the rainforests of the Amazon River basin.
Scientific name: Melanosuchus niger
Family Classification: Alligatoridae
Common names: Black Caiman
IUCN Red List Category: Least Concern (1)
Year Assessed: 2000 (1)
Estimated wild population: Up to 1,000,000 (2)
Countries: Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Peru (1)
Habitat: Found in the Amazon River basin. Terrestrial nest sites and basking areas. (1)
Description: The Black caiman is the largest member of the alligator family, and is the largest predator in the Amazon River basin, with adult males averaging 4–5 metres (13.1–16.4 ft) in length. The Black caiman gets its name from its dark, black skin colouration, which provides camouflage during nocturnal hunts, and is thought to help absorb more heat. Mostly black in colour with white and yellow cross bands along its torso, it also has grey bands or spots along its jaws.
Maximum adult length: 5 metres (16.4 ft)
Diet and predation: Juvenile caiman eat hard-shelled fish and insects. Adults eat vertebrates, including fish (especially piranha fish and catfish), birds, turtles, and large mammals. Mature black caimans have no predators other than humans and jaguars, and are one of the apex predators in their habitat. They are capable of taking large land-dwelling mammals, including capybara, deer, buffalo, and non-poisonous snakes, such as anacondas and pythons.
Conservation status: Black caiman populations have recovered dramatically from low levels in the 1970s, when they were considered endangered. Population recovery today is threatened by continued illegal hunting, and through increased competition with the more numerous spectacled caiman. Habitat destruction through deforestation, and burning of swamplands is also a threat.
Black Caiman Profiles
List of adopters
- Kian McDonald
- Stuart Mancey
To join our adopters list and help make a difference for this species, adopt an American alligator today!
Signup for zoo news
Want up-to-the-minute croc news? Sign up for our monthly email newsletter and get zoo news, events and information delivered to your email.